In 2016, Scotland’s egg production was valued over £88 million with around 6.3 million egg-producing hens in the country. Alongside basic fridge and cupboard staples; bread, milk, oats, is the humble egg. It is a nutritional powerhouse and it is cheap too. Their versatility knows no bounds; eggs can be cooked on their own, used to make fresh pasta, put into cakes, used in dressings and so on.
According to the Soil Association, in the UK alone, we eat on average 12 billion eggs a year. Eggs have, in recent years, had a surge in food trends, such as the ‘put an egg on it’, ‘brinner’ where you have breakfast for dinner, and a rise in brunch-style eating, especially on weekends – think smashed avocado on toast served with a poached egg. In a fast-paced world, where we have less time to spend on creating healthy, home-cooked meals, the egg is a quick-cooked, nutritionally balanced product that is popular and praised by many budding cookery book writers and bloggers.
Eggs are one of the most popular ways to consume protein. An average medium-sized egg contains about 6.4g of protein – over 10% of an adult’s recommended daily intake of protein per day. Not only having a high content of protein, eggs contain antioxidants and only trace carbs placing it high in the satiety index making it an ideal breakfast choice. An egg can also be a way of increasing omega 3 intake if the hens have been fed flaxseed in their diet. You can check this with your local egg farmer.
Here’s what vitamins and minerals you can expect from an egg:
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
Most of the vitamins and minerals are in the yolks and the protein is in the whites.
Animal welfare is a priority with many local farmers in the UK. This is also the case with poultry farms, in particular, egg farming. As a result of consumer concerns, free-range eggs outsold caged hen eggs for the first time in 2016. Several schemes, including the Lion Quality which started in 1998, over the past 2 decades have resulted in greater consumer awareness of the lives of farm animals. Egg box labels, although helpful, have been unleashed on a great scale, and it takes a bit of time to decipher all these codes. Here on Foodful, we have tried our best to lay out the details of these schemes.
Uncovering the Shell on Egg Box Labels
Mandatory labelling of egg boxes began in 2004, advocated by the campaign Labelling Matters, to enhance transparency about where our food comes from. A further victory relating to this scheme was the banning of battery-farmed hens in 2012. Battery-Farmed hens are now known as ‘enriched colony’ caged hens. New laws have enforced more space for caged hens to live in. However, it is recommended you avoid purchasing these eggs for ethical, environmental and health reasons.
Labelling on the eggs themselves includes the country origin, the farm I.D., for traceability purposes, and most British eggs include a red lion stamp. Eggs are also required to be classified from 0 -3 stating whether the eggs are;
0 – Organic
1 – Free-Range
2 – Barn Raised
3 – ‘Enriched’ Colony Caged
What Standards to Look Out For On Your Eggs
When purchasing your eggs from local producers be sure to check their standards as well. These 4 standards are a way to gauge farms’ ethics.
- RSPCA Assured – championing animal welfare
- Soil Association Organic Standard – only awarded to farms showing high-welfare benefits to animals, crops and environment
- The Lion Mark – Lion Quality is synonymous with British eggs and ensures they meet food safety criteria
- Laid in Britain scheme – allows small-medium companies to compete with standards set on large producers in regards to high standards of food safety and bird welfare
Quick Chick Facts
- Brown and white eggs are identical in health terms
- Chicken muck is also a key player in the reduction of pesticide use in farming as it is naturally a soil improver. Chicken manure is high in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. However, it needs to be composted first as nutrients levels are high and can be dangerous to plants.
- A quick way to check the freshness of the egg. Place in cool water and if it lies at the bottom its fresh, if it’s tilted it’s still edible but needs well cooked and if it floats it’s rotten.
- Buying local farm fresh eggs means there is higher nutritional content in eggs since it hasn’t been sitting.
- Hens who have access to outside spaces in sunshine improves the vitamin content in their eggs
- An average hen can lay up to 325 eggs a year
- The white part of the egg, albumen, is the protein, whereas the yolk contains all the flavour and vitamins. Egg yolks are a natural source of Vitamin D, like sunshine!
Border Eggs is run by husband and wife team, James and Angela MacLean. Based just outside of Hutton, the hens are free to roam in the beautiful Scottish Border countryside. Border Eggs eggs are organic and free-range. Their hens have a high quality of life, which is reflected in the taste of their products. The hens have access to barns, fields, dust baths which is important in life satisfaction. Border Eggs are available to buy directly from them at the ‘Egg Shack’ or you can get them from some local outlets. The eggs they sell are:
- Very large organic free range
- Jumbo organic free range
- Trays of organic free range eggs for catering
The business started in 2007 and they are certified by the Lion Code, the R.S.P.C.A. Assured Scheme and are also a certified organic farm by the Organic Food Federation. More recently, Border Eggs won Egg Producer of the Year 2018 at the annual National Egg and Poultry Awards in the UK.
Glenrath Farms Ltd
Glenrath Farms has been in the Campbell family since 1959. Initially starting as a sheep and cattle farm, they later diversified to include hens. Glenrath Farms can now boast of being one of the biggest egg farms in Scotland. The hens have access to the beautiful rural landscapes including views of valleys and hills close by to West Linton. They supply many brands including;
- Cage Free
- Glenrath Free-Range Eggs
- Kitty Campbell’s Free Range Eggs
Glenrath Farm is on the outskirts of Peebles, near West Linton. Being environmentally friendly is a priority, after the welfare of the hens, and Glenrath Farm attempt as many environmentally friendly schemes as possible. This includes using recycled packaging, minimising transportation costs and using chicken muck as a fertiliser for use on the rest of the farm.
The egg industry is far more confusing and in need of consumer support than first imagined. Eggs have been victim to an onslaught of media attention in regards to its healthiness as well as farming techniques. The only way to ensure hen welfare and an eggs health benefits is to buy directly from your local egg farmer. By supporting your local egg farmers, statistics show you are more likely to be feeding your body a better protein, with higher vitamin and mineral content, with less pollution, ensuring high-quality standards of lives for the hens involved and supporting the British economy. Egg-cellent!